Akemashite Omedetō-Reiwa 4
Akemashite Omedetogozaimasu: Reiwa 4
The New Year holiday in Japan starts on December 30th and finishes on Jan 3rd.
For the Japanese, the ringing-in of the New Year is the most important holiday in the Land Of The Rising Son, along with Obon where the ancestor worshiping Japanese honour their dead.
For the most part, the Japanese celebrate this special occasion in a solemn and reserved manner.
The yearly opportunity for deep reflection, and to ponder what the New Year will bring.
This is in contract to the image of revelry and mirth of the Occidental New Year’s Eve tradition.
The New Year’s Eve tradition of Time Square in New York comes to mind at first, and is the basis for a broad assumption about how the Occidental celebrate New Year.
Growing up in Canada, the New Year party was full of dancing and signing and boisterous merriment.
One is often asked by naive Japanese in a very generalized way about “Canada” and the New Year’s Eve traditions thereof.
“How do Canadians celebrate New Year?”
The answer is always the same:
Canada is a melting pot of cultures, religions, and ideas, so there is no one particular way “Canadians” in general celebrate New Year.
For certain, the way of celebrating New Year varies in every culture.
However, one could say the Orientals and Japanese have the common thread of ancestor worship integrated into the ringing-in of the New Year as a matter of ancient custom.
Keep in mind, the Japanese look at other countries as concepts to be studied and analyzed, and naively think there is one common traditions for all Canadians, shared by all citizens.
Here is where the Japanese find internalizing the concept of a melting pot conceptually incomprehensible.
Never forget, most of the Japanese have never lived outside the motherland, and are shielded by the potent and formidable language barrier.
Traditionally the Japanese return and gather at the family’s ancestral home to reconnect with their family, and with their great community clan at the obliquitous shrine and temple strewn throughout Japan.
Often the pilgrims leave the great metropolises of Japan and travel great distances to be with family in the countryside.
Snuggling down into the tatami room, the family gather beneath the kotatsu, and watch TV, while enjoy umi no sachi (delights of the sea), a variety of pickles, and some of the nectar of the gods otherwise known as reishu.
Very early on one was intrigued by the Red and White song contest (Kohaku Uta Gassen), brought to you by the Japanese Broadcasting System, otherwise know as NHK (Nihon Hoso Kyokai), every New Year’s Eve since 1953.
Indeed, the top Japanese “talent” form into red and white teams.
Here they battle it out in song, with extravagant stage shows, along with gorgeous costumes, the sheer glamour and effort put into this spectacle is breathtaking to say the least.
At the end of the program the Red and White teams sing Auld Lang Syne together in a show of good will and unity and then it’s back to the New Years TV programming, which tends to become a lot zanier after midnight.
After Kohaku Uta Gassen ends, NHK switches the broadcast feed to different shrines and temples throughout Japan bringing a variety of images of pensive families, young smiling couples, groups of men and women, all waiting in chilly December 31st weather waiting for the stroke of midnight.
Hatsumode (first prayer) will be carried out throughout Japan by millions of citizens flocking to their shrines and temples.
Here the Japanese will earnestly make a prayer speaking to what is in their heart for the consideration of the dead.
Japanese New Year TV programing mode starts from ealy on New Year day, the one day of the year, where one is allowed to have a drink of sake in the morning.
Years ago, when the TV was much less toned-down during the day, one could observe programs from famous onsen resorts.
Here is where there were women’s splashing contests broadcast from the konyoku (open-air hot spring).
The ladies would soaked themselves in a splashing contest in what could be considered in the Occidental world as a “wet tee-shirt contest.”
Same concept, different angle.
Alas, the puritanical censors put a stop to this joyful nonsense, but not before moving such content over to the pioneer of satellite TV in Japan, Wowow.
Regardless of how one chooses to celebrate ringing in the new year, or even not ringing it in at all, according to the Gregorian calendar, it now is 2022.
However, here in Japan, it is now the year of Reiwa 4, which signifies the 4th year of the reign of emperor Naruhito, the symbol the Japanese.
Here one leaves the dear reader with a heartfelt wish this year to believe in the goodness of our common humanity, and use each day to create goodwill, peacefulness, and harmony towards all under our shared sun.